March 22, 2006

When Life Gets in the Way

We Christians must simplify our lives or lose untold treasures on earth and in eternity. Modern civilization is so complex as to make the devotional life all but impossible. The need for solitude and quietness was never greater than it is today. - A. W. Tozer

I was feeling down a while back because I didn't have anything I wanted to blog about... and was feeling "un-blogish". I've been kind of in a dump about wanting to do a blog redesign, but lacking the skills to pull it off. Well, within just a week, I have been bombarded with ideas to blog about and have a full file waiting on me to have spare time to bring life to them. I'm not sure how it happened, but it will take a long time to flesh them all out. It is a lot like life - feast and famine... the roller coaster we all are on. I thought I would listen to the Spirit's urging and reach out to whoever this message is for today... because I know it is not just me that struggles with feelings of inadequacy in being a mother, a wife, and a homeschooler.

I have a friend who I have been discussing some difficult issues with regarding my son getting his Math worksheets done on time. Yesterday, she wrote to me that although it had been HER giving advice to ME... she felt the Lord had humbled her and had given her a really rough day (or in her words, a "h-o-r-r-i-b-l-e, "I'm puttin' 'em on the bus tomorrow" day). She called her experience "a big ol' slice of humble pie". Isn't that true of all of us? If all our days were perfect and we moved through this universe like Martha Steward mixed with June Cleaver... would we really understand the need for a savior? If you can wake up each day, keep the house immaculate, look like you stepped off of the cover of a magazine, have all your books in order and your lists checked off, teach a few kids while flawlessly following lesson plans, drop off dinner for a shut-in, pray for the world, work out for an hour at the gym, plan a party for your pregnant church buddy, and make a perfect three course dinner by 7pm for when your husband comes home from work, then what do you need Jesus for?

Sometimes we expect ourselves to fit into unrealistic molds. We set the bar too high and feel sorry for ourselves because we never reach our goals. I am one of those people. You could call me a perfectionist. You could say I was a tad on the "anal retentive" side. My kids would not disagree - especially after I did a "chore check" to make sure they REALLY cleaned their rooms. So what can I do to feel good about myself when I am NOT PERFECT and CAN'T BE SUPER-MOM? What are some realistic expectations I can have for myself instead of my three-page, multi-column, fine-print, double-sided list I want to accomplish by the end of the week? I'm researching this as I type, so bear with me here!

First of all, I covered the topic of simplification a while back. But simplifying your surroundings and expectations are not the only way to tackle this issue. I believe you first have to figure out the cause of your feelings of being overwhelmed. Some of us have been "blessed" with ADD (as I recently discovered). We have a tendency to remain in this constant pattern of "HUGE LIST" - "NOTHING DONE" - "WOE IS ME". Feelings of guilt and inadequacy usually follow. Especially for us ADD Moms, we need to know how to overcome (check out this post for ideas on how). Others of us are just going through life changes or upsets which throw our regular patters out the windows (such as moves, divorces, death in the family, lengthy travels, job changes, etc.). Another culprit in my life for chaos is when I try and lean on my own understanding ("rely on my own strength") and I slip into prayerlessness and lack of Bible-study. God has a way of halting the "busy-ness" to return you to the "RIGHT PATH". I find this is true in all areas of my life. If my relationships, children, homeschooling, housework, or friendships are suffering... most likely God and I have not had any time alone for much too long! If you've been spending time in the Word and you still are struggling with your daily life... maybe you should consider this: Sometimes God will re-direct our path to fit more closely to what HE WANTS for our lives.

Kneeling before Knocking it Out
The first place we all need to go is to the Father's feet in prayer. I have started writing in a prayer journal and this helps me to go back and see how God is moving in my life and through my prayers. Sometimes my plans have been usurped by His purposes. When I prayed in the fall of 2005, my prayers were markedly different than in July of 2006. You can see your life's movement with a bit more objectivity when you have it on paper. I have also noticed that keeping up with my prayer is sometimes the ONLY thing that differentiates a day that succeeds and one that goes down the "toilet". I have heard it said that God is in the details. I believe that is true. The details all seem to come together for good on days when my heart has already been placed before His throne for strength and encouragement.

Life in the homeschool/homemaking trenches is in some ways as hard as the battle fields on foreign soil. We are expected to raise up Godly offspring with flawed tools (fleshly selves and lots of unexpected interruptions). The only way to accomplish an impossible job is to go to the Miracle Maker to request intervention. One of my favorite prayers is "MULTIPLY MY EFFORTS" and "HELP ME PRIORITIZE". When God is at the top of my list... I tend to see the "trickle-down effect" without much effort on my part. My list almost checks itself off!

Recognizing Road Blocks
Our family can attest that life changes get in the way of your plans. If any of you reading this have been following me on the blog through the past year, you know we have lived in a few places, a couple of states, and have been "through the ringer". Some of us are dealing with other issues such as death of friends or family and sickness, which are also major roadblocks to our plans. I am unhappy when life doesn't move as smoothly as I have planned, as most people are... but I realize that life changes are eventually going to get in my way. When these things come, the best thing to do is take a deep breath, say a prayer, and tackle each thing in front of you as it comes. Make a priority list. You can start with a simple triangle with God at the top. You should put yourself next (taking care of your health can greatly reduce your negative reactions to the stresses around you). Then you would add your spouse and children. Maybe it is time to say no to some outside commitments and re-focus on your inner circle. When you have your situation assessed, you can more realistically set expectations.

Realistic Standards
If you just moved in to a new home, it is not realistic to expect your children to do a full day of school. As in gardening, we can not expect a ripe crop of tomatoes from the seeds that we just planted yesterday. There are some constant steps we must take to help produce the desired result. Not just sunshine, water and dirt goes into homeschooling... but all three should be added in good measure. This is one of the areas in my homeschool that is lacking: recess - "time off for good behavior". I tend to be more of a drill-master, and less of a "FUN" mom. I will usually put the crafts, park, and play-time off for days if we are behind in Math or other assignments. We need to realize that the people in our life need time to unwind. Adding in proper nutrition and exercise, exposure to sunlight, and reasonable bed-time routines can go a long way in reducing stress and improving your mood.

Why is it that we KNOW these things and still have trouble sticking to them? Because we're a fallen people... and like the Israelites in the desert who saw God in the pillar of smoke by day and fire by night... we need lots of reminders. A good way to help you stay on track is a reward/sticker chart. Most all of the teacher planners I have bought have a section dedicated to creating WALL CHARTS for students with rules, calendars, incentives, and such. Maybe we should put our schedule on the wall and get help in being accountable. Another way to create realistic standards is to quit comparing yourself to other people. God made you just the way you are, and he knows you are human and in need of His help to make improvements.

Seeking Encouragement
Never underestimate a good friend's power in helping you stay the task. If you make a list of habits you want to begin or end, sharing the list with a friend might help you stick to the process. Studies show that when people enlist a friend to walk/work-out with them, they tend to continue exercising a lot longer than those who go it alone. Reading a few good books/blogs that encourage you to stay on track is also a good idea. The book "A Purpose Driven Life" was a great inspiration to me. I also read "The Organized Homeschooler" every year to encourage me to get my paperwork and goals in order for the kids. Do some research and see if you can find a resource of positive information, or even a prayer partner for your venture. Two heads are better than one!

Proverbs 27:17 - As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another.

Proverbs 15:22 - Plans fail for lack of counsel, but with many advisers they succeed.

Staying in the Race
Remember that we all fall down. No one is immune to stress, failure, setbacks, negative circumstances, or the occasional need for some time off. You can add a few "teacher in service days" to your yearly school schedule and plan a few fun trips to McDonalds just to let the kids play when you are having a bad day. Changing the course of a bad day is easy if you throw your hands up and LAUGH about it. I am preaching to myself here as much as anything else. I ran across an article once about a mom who was having such a bad day at home that she took the kids to a hamburger joint and ordered them a shake. They had been expecting to be yelled at and punished, but instead, the mom realized that SHE was in as bad of sorts as her children, and there was no way to redeem the lost time... so she wanted to "START OVER" with smiles. The day ended up being a complete success. After the shakes and fries, the kids went home to help her clean and cook... and behaved for the rest of the day like little angels. Sometimes we get so upset over spilled milk that we forget the hearts we are in charge of (our real purpose)... we forget that they are children and that milk is going to be spilled - sooner or later.

Speaking of spilled milk, I read a wonderful story about spilled milk in a Chicken Soup for the Soul book (copied below). I have never forgotten the story. Sometimes we need to just view our lives as one big HUGE opportunity to persevere in times of trail. After all, I don't think that is an unbiblical view of it. Jesus would agree.

James 1:12 - Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial, because when he has stood the test, he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him.

Perhaps the best goal to aspire for is not perfection, but God's pleasure and our family's well-being. You can be a mother, wife and homeschool teacher who is flawed and imperfect and still live by God's grace. You can be called blessed by your husband and children despite how many items on your checklist were checked off today. Remind yourself what it means to be a Proverbs 31 woman and a daughter of the King. If God is able to be patient with us, shouldn't we be patient with ourselves?

Proverbs 31:26-28
26 She speaks with wisdom,
and faithful instruction is on her tongue.

27 She watches over the affairs of her household
and does not eat the bread of idleness.

28 Her children arise and call her blessed;
her husband also, and he praises her


Jack Canfield, author of Chicken Soup for the Soul, tells this delightful story.

A reporter asked a famous research scientist: "Why do you think you are so creative?" "Well," said the scientist, "I think it came from an experience I had with my mother when I was almost three years old."

He had been trying to take a bottle of milk from the refrigerator when he lost his grip and it fell, creating a sea of milk all over the floor. When his mother came in, rather than scolding him, she smiled and said, "Robert, what a great and wonderful mess you have made!"

As they worked together cleaning up, his mother said, "Robert, what we have here is a failed experiment on how to carry a big bottle with two small hands. Let's go in the back yard and fill the bottle with water, and see if you can figure out a better way to hold it.

The little boy did discover a better way; and he never forgot that lesson.

I pray that you are encouraged today, as I have been while researching this topic. May God guide you into a new chapter in realistic expectations and right priorities that center around Him.

More Links on Related Topics:
Stressing over schedules.
Realistic planning.
Benefits of the Simple Life
Success at Homeschooling
Yielding fruit with time.

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Rhonda said...

Excellent and inspiring post.

Renee said...

I just wanted to say that I am right there with you. It's amazing how the Lord will put others before you in similar situations. I have been struggling with knowing what to do, and not necessarily doing it; like praying every morning, over my day etc. I also wanted to let you know that I enjoy reading your posts from time to time. I first noticed your blog from the Konos e-loop. Take Care.


Sprittibee said...

Thanks Rhonda. :)

Renee - Thanks for stopping in! I've been enjoying my time off from the Konos loop, but do miss the ladies on the list very much. It is nice to get only a handful of emails for a change each day, rather than 60-100! I was on wAy too many lists. The praying thing is foremost. :) But, you already knew that!

Dianne said...

Great post! I have another wonderful quote that lives in the back of my Bible regarding kids and encouragement. I don't know the author, it's out of a magazine from many years ago.

In first grade, Mr. Lohr said my purple tepee wasn't realistic enough, that purple was no color for a tent, that purple was a color for people who died, that my drawing wasn't good enough to hang with the others. I walked back to my seat counting the swish-swish-swishes of my baggy courduroy trousers. With a black crayon, nightfall came to my purple tent in the middle of an afternoon.

In second grade, Mr. Barta said, "Draw anything." He didn't care what. I left my paper blank, and when he came around to my desk, my heart beat like a tom-tom while he touched my head with his big hand and in a soft voice said, "The snowfall. How clean and white and beautiful."

I know I fall short at times, but it's my hope and prayer that I can encourage my kids (and others) with that type of heart.

the not-yet-a-blogger gal :-)

Sprittibee said...

Thanks Dianne. That was inspirational. It reminded me to step up the praise in our homeschooling. I know our kids thrive on it. :) My kids would thank you, too - if they knew how to blog. :) Glad they don't. I had better get in there and get back to them! God bless.

FatcatPaulanne said...

Very good post. My mom has a shirt that says "A day hemmed in prayer is less likely to unravel". That's what your post reminds me of. I need to get my priorities straight.

Chicki said...

I'm not too sure where this will show up for you because this is my first post. I've been up all nite reading your blog. I wanted to let you know that I am soooooooo proud of you and I love you very much. Your Christian knowledge and advice to others is very powerful. I am blessed to have such a beautiful daughter. Thank you God for giving me Heather, and of course, my wonderful Grandchildren. Love, Chicki

Sprittibee said...

Thanks fatcat... that is a great quote!

Chickie!!! Hey mamasita. So glad you finally stopped in. Thank you for always being my biggest fan. I love you, too. There's nothing in the world like a mom (and grandma). :)

justsimplykristie said...

Very inspiring and was a much needed read for me last night. Any thoughts for a single,working, home educating mom of four? I'm simply worn out.

Sprittibee said...

:) Prayer would be my #1 suggestion. Seeking support would be my 2nd. Kudos to you for your selfless efforts!!! Email me if you need to talk.



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